Board of Directors
The Watershed Council Board of Directors volunteer their valuable time, knowledge and skills to help make sure the Marys River watershed remains vital for both people and wildlife. Their role is to help the Council achieve its mission of promoting voluntary stewardship of the Marys River.
If you are interested in volunteering your time and talents for the sake of a healthy Marys River watershed, please visit this webpage to learn more about Board service or call our office at 541-758-7597.
Thank you to the following individuals for making watershed health a top priority for all of us.
Thom Whittier, Board Chair
Thom is a retired research ecologist with 30 years of professional experience developing and evaluating ways of measuring aquatic ecosystem conditions. Thom has been an active member of the Council for over 20 years; as a member of the Water Quality Monitoring committee, making presentations to Council on the Clean Water Act, on the risk of zebra mussel invasion, and on historic patterns in low flow and flood conditions in Marys River. Previously Thom served as the Board Chair for seven years. As a landowner along the lower Marys River, Thom has gained much firsthand experience with the river’s variable hydrology.
Lee Sherman, Board Vice-Chair
A native Northwesterner, Lee Sherman earned a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 1980. Her 35-year career as a reporter, feature writer and magazine editor included her most recent position as a science writer and associate editor for Oregon State University’s research magazine, Terra. During her 11 years at OSU, her story assignments took her into the field with researchers studying everything from fisheries, wildlife biology, and ornithology to engineering, agriculture and rangeland management. Her stories covered topics such as Pacific lamprey in the Willamette River and its tributaries; wolves and cougars in Eastern Oregon; and international negotiations on climate change. In 2015, she helped create a history exhibit for the Council called “The Shaping of a Watershed,” which now hangs in Benton County’s Sunset Building. She also edited the Council’s newsletter for several years. Lee loves being out in the natural world, birding, kayaking, hiking, and collecting rocks, feathers, cones and seedpods to decorate her mantlepiece. Now retired, she writes nature essays, including one about the Marys River titled “Imagining the Marys,” published in Wild in the Willamette in 2015.
Molly Monroe, Board Secretary
Molly is a native Oregonian, starting her life in Corvallis and returning to attend Oregon State University, she has spent much of her life exploring the great outdoors. Having previously worked as a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, she joined the board in hopes of bridging new connections in the community to its natural resources. She now works part time for a water resource consulting firm as well as the Institute for Applied Ecology’s environmental education program. Molly is a volunteer team leader for the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s Natural Areas Action Team, as well as at her daughter’s school, working to build backyard, schoolyard and pollinator habitats throughout Benton County.
Peter Nelson, Board Treasurer
Peter received his PhD in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University and subsequently spent 31 years as a professor in Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University, retiring in 2006. His research interests varied from remediation of heavy metals contamination in water and soils, nutrient loading and water quality assessment in lakes and rivers, and stabilization of hazardous solid waste materials in highway construction applications. He has participated in water quality studies in several national parks, including Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Great Basin, and Yosemite. Peter is an avid outdoorsman and especially enjoys fly fishing, kayaking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Although his environmental conservation interests across the Mary’s River Watershed are broad, Peter’s focus is on water quality issues in the more urbanized sub-basins of the watershed.
Phil retired in 2002 after 37 years of research, administration, and teaching at the OSU College of Forestry. His research focused on forest ecosystems and soils. Phil received his BA from Swarthmore College (1966), MA from UNC Chapel Hill (1970), and PhD from University of Tennessee (1972) while doing his research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
More recently, Phil has worked to document the convoluted and often contentious history of the Corvallis Mill Race, the diversion dam on the Marys River that once fed the Mill Race, and the industrial site at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette (now Holligsworth & Vose, H&V). He has also worked with DEQ, H&V, City and County staff, and Southtown residents to help insure that the site and industrial plant meet standards for air and water quality and soil contamination. Working with MRWC, he hopes to set up continuous monitoring of stream health across the watershed.
Zach Pike-Urlacher, OSU Hydrophile
Zach Pike-Urlacher graduated from Oregon State University in 2019 with an MS in Water Resource Policy and Management and Water Conflict Transformation and currently works with GSI Water Solutions. Zach grew up amongst the mountains, lakes and streams of eastern Oregon and has a strong background in the natural and human sciences. Before moving to Corvallis, Zach worked as a technician for the river restoration firm, Streamwise, in Mount Shasta California.
Bill is a retired environmental lawyer. He and his spouse, Diana, moved to Corvallis full-time in 2017. Diana is from Corvallis and Bill has been a regular visitor since the 1980s. Bill’s professional career experience includes stints in the Environmental Control Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in Chicago and the U.S. EPA’s Regional Counsel’s Office in Seattle. Bill spent the majority of his career as a Senior Deputy in the Civil Division of the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, where he headed up the Natural Resources Section for several years. His work included providing legal advice and representation on such matters as Clean Water Act compliance, hazardous waste cleanup, solid waste disposal, and various municipal law issues.
Bill also brings the small woodlands owner’s perspective – Diana and her family own a tree farm near Philomath, through which Rock Creek runs. The family has practiced sustainable forest management practices for decades, and the farm has been selected as the 2019 Benton County nominee for Oregon Tree Farmer of The Year.
Merrilee Buchanan Benson
Merrilee Buchanan Benson is a 5th generation Willamette Valley farmer on her family farm in South Corvallis, specializing in growing wine grapes and hazelnuts and making Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer wines as the 2nd generation winemaker for her family winery. Merrilee grew up raising sheep on the family farm and today much of the land is preserved in native woodlands, wetlands and riparian habitat. Merrilee hiked many river miles throughout the state as a member of Oregon Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Inventories project and spent time working with beneficial insects, school gardens, and on farm conservation projects with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and UC Extension on the central coast of California. Merrilee has lived and farmed in the Marys River Watershed for over 30 years.
Tessa Artruc is an Oregon State University master’s student in Water Resources Engineering, studying the geomorphic response of rivers to reservoir drawdown and dam removal. She grew up in the dairy farms of western New York, before going to the University of New Hampshire for a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Her previous experience spans from invasive species education, drinking water treatment research, civil engineering, and stream restoration projects. It’s her goal to strengthen the relationship between MRWC, the university, and the community so that people are able to cherish Marys River for generations to come.